New Zealand to ban single-use plastic bags

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits in a chair as she attends her first cabinet meeting since returning from maternity leave in Wellington, New Zealand, August 6, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 August 2018
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New Zealand to ban single-use plastic bags

  • A United Nations report in June said up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute
  • Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand

WELLINGTON: New Zealand became the latest country Friday to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying they will be phased out over the next year as a “meaningful step” toward reducing pollution.
New Zealand uses “hundreds of millions” of single-use plastic bags each year, many of which end up harming marine life, Ardern said.
“We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start,” she said.
“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.”
Ardern said her coalition government, which includes the Green Party, was facing up to environmental challenges and “just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations.”
Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand and the environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the decision to outlaw them.
“This could be a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution and an important first step in protecting marine life such as sea turtles and whales, from the growing plastic waste epidemic,” Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said.
A United Nations report in June said up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.
“If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour” and like most plastic garbage barely any is recycled, said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
The UN said more than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags.
But better waste management, financial incentives to change consumers’ buying habits and research into alternative materials were needed to make any real change, it added.


Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

Updated 17 January 2019
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Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

  • Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade
  • Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership

BELGRADE, Serbia: Vladimir Putin received a hero’s welcome in ally Serbia on Thursday as the Russian president attempted to maintain political and economic influence in the Balkans, which is increasingly looking Westward.
Putin’s presidential plane was escorted over Serbian airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets he recently donated to Serbia as he arrived for the one-day visit. Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has pledged to stay out of NATO.
Putin has recently stepped up efforts to restore Moscow’s influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Putin and his host, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, praised the relationship between the two countries. Putin handed a top Russian honor to Vucic, who gave a puppy of a Serb dog breed to the Russian president.
Vucic thanked Russia for its support for Serbia’s claim over Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008, and added that “however small,” Serbia has been a “reliable partner” to Russia.
Several bilateral agreements were signed, including on the supply of Russian gas and weapons to Serbia.
On the gas, Putin said Russian companies are ready to invest about $1.4 billion into a stretch of a pipeline that would go from Turkey via EU-member Bulgaria to Serbia and then on to Hungary, “but in the end, everything will depend on other countries, including the European Union.”
Putin’s visit come as thousands have been holding weekly demonstrations against Vucic because of what they see as his autocratic rule.
Tens of thousands of Vucic’s right-wing party supporters were bused into the capital on Thursday to gather in front of the St. Sava Orthodox church, which the two presidents visited. They were chanting slogans including “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the European Union!“
Vucic’s critics say the gathering was staged to suggest that the Serbian leader has many more supporters than opponents, who have been marching the same route since December to demand free elections and media.
Several liberal Serbian rights groups issued a statement on Thursday protesting “glorification of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.”
It said that Putin’s visit “indicates that the Serbian rulers are ready to sacrifice human rights and better living standards of citizens because of their servile attitude toward Putin’s regime.”
Russia’s interest in Serbia relates to its strategic position between East and West. Of Serbia’s eight neighbors, five are NATO members and two more are seeking membership; and four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession. Serbia remains Moscow’s only ally in the region.
Unlike NATO, Putin formally does not oppose Serbia’s EU path and analysts believe that this is because he wants a staunch ally — or perhaps a Trojan horse — within the 28-nation bloc.
Putin’s popularity in Serbia is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence. In contrast, most Western countries have recognized Kosovo’s statehood.